The beautiful white church of Santa Maria Formosa has, at the foot of its campanile, a carved head that so offended the Victorian art critic John Ruskin, that he described it as:

“A head, huge, inhuman and monstrous, leering in bestial degradation, too foul to be either pictured or described, or to be beheld for more than an instant; yet let it be endured for that instant; for in that head is embodied the type of evil spirit to which Venice was abandoned in the fourth period of her decline; and it is well that we should see and feel the full horror of it on this spot, and know what pestilence it was that came and breathed upon her beauty; until it melted away like the white cloud from the ancient field of Santa Maria Formosa.”

 He was clearly more sensitive than me (he did translate Formosa, which means buxom or shapely, as beautiful) because I didn’t find it too foul at all.


I don’t know what purpose the carving served; it does apparently reflect the effects of fibromatosis.


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